Stream 22 Hours of Funky, Rocking & Swinging Christmas Albums: From James Brown and Johnny Cash to Christopher Lee & The Ventures

When you think Christ­mas, you prob­a­bly think recent­ly deceased Stone Tem­ple Pilots singer Scott Wei­land, no? No, you prob­a­bly don’t, but he made a Christ­mas record all the same in 2011 (see his “Win­ter Won­der­land” video above). You might say crit­ics didn’t love it, but that’s not real­ly the point. Artists often record Christ­mas records as nov­el­ty items for shop­pers on a tear to snatch up and shove in the bas­ket with oth­er last-minute detri­tus. It seems like com­mon wis­dom that if you get your Christ­mas album on a Star­bucks or Tar­get prod­uct dis­play, you’ll prob­a­bly have a pret­ty hap­py new year.

James Browns Funky Christmas

But then there are the rare excep­tions, Christ­mas albums made with care, by artists who sure­ly want­ed to make mon­ey, but who also made some­thing unique­ly great of well-worn hol­i­day clas­sics, or penned new ones of their own. There is, of course, the most­ly instru­men­tal jazz great­ness of Vince Guaraldi’s Char­lie Brown Christ­mas sound­track. But have you heard instru­men­tal surf-rock leg­ends The Ven­tures Christ­mas album? It’s out­stand­ing. You’re inti­mate­ly famil­iar with The Jack­son 5’s bril­liant soul ren­di­tions of songs like “San­ta Claus is Com­ing to Town,” but you haven’t yet begun to yule­tide, I say, until you’ve put on James Brown’s Funky Christ­mas, fea­tur­ing such orig­i­nal tunes as “Go Pow­er at Christ­mas Time” and the heart­felt plea on behalf of impov­er­ished kids, “San­ta Claus Go Straight to the Ghet­to.”

We’ve got these albums and many more greats—from Bob Dylan, John­ny Cash, The Beach Boys, Willie Nel­son, Ella Fitzger­ald, Elvis Pres­ley etc.—compiled in the Spo­ti­fy playlist above, where they rub shoul­ders with unex­pect­ed gems from indie band Low, punk rock­ers Bad Reli­gion, and hor­ror leg­end Christo­pher Lee, whose Heavy Met­al Christ­mas and Heavy Met­al Christ­mas Too should be required lis­ten­ing at every hol­i­day par­ty. Host­ing one of your own? Pull up our playlist of Christ­mas music worth hear­ing, hit play, and enjoy many qual­i­ty hours of jazz, funk, coun­try, soul, and rock and roll cheer and tid­ings. These sug­ges­tions come to us via Rolling StoneCom­plex, and our read­ers on Twit­ter. If you need to down­load Spo­ti­fy’s soft­ware, get it here. You can find a com­plete list of the albums below, with links to pur­chase them, should you need a last minute gift.

James Brown’s Funky Christ­mas

John­ny Cash — The Clas­sic Christ­mas Album

The Beach Boys’ Christ­mas Album

Louis Arm­strong and Friends — What a Won­der­ful Christ­mas

A Motown Christ­mas

Elvis’ Christ­mas Album

A Christ­mas Gift for You from Phil Spec­tor

A Char­lie Brown Christ­mas

Bob Dylan, Christ­mas in the Heart

We Wish You a Met­al Xmas … And a Head­bang­ing New Year

The Ven­tures’ Christ­mas Album

Jacob Miller, Nat­ty Christ­mas

A Very She and Him Christ­mas

A Very Spe­cial Christ­mas Vol­ume 1

A Jol­ly Christ­mas from Frank Sina­tra

Willie Nel­son, Pret­ty Paper

Ella Wish­es You a Swing­ing Christ­mas

Soul Christ­mas

Bing Cros­by, White Christ­mas

Christ­mas on Death Row

Christ­mas with the Rat Pack

The Jack­son 5 Christ­mas Album

Suf­jan Stevens, Songs for Christ­mas

Emmy­lou Har­ris, Light of the Sta­ble

James Brown, Soul­ful Christ­mas

Car­pen­ters’ Christ­mas Col­lec­tion

Low, Christ­mas

Bad Reli­gion, Christ­mas Songs

Christo­pher Lee, Heavy Met­al Christ­mas and Heavy Met­al Christ­mas Too

Squir­rel Nut Zip­pers, Christ­mas Car­a­van

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Lis­ten to the Bea­t­les’ Christ­mas Records: Sev­en Vin­tage Record­ings for Their Fans (1963 – 1969)

John­ny Cash’s Christ­mas Spe­cials, Fea­tur­ing June Carter, Steve Mar­tin, Andy Kauf­man & More (1976–79)

John Waters Makes Hand­made Christ­mas Cards, Says the “Whole Pur­pose of Life is Christ­mas”

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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